Our recently described purification scheme for rat brain protein kinase C yields an enzyme consisting of a 78/80-kilodalton (kDa) doublet upon sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (submitted for publication). Antisera against this preparation were raised in two rabbits. One of the antisera detected only the 80-kDa component by immunoblotting of purified protein kinase C and immunoprecipitated an 80-kDa [35S]methionine-labeled protein from a variety of human, rodent, and bovine cells, which was shown to represent protein kinase C by comparative one-dimensional peptide mapping. In contrast, the second antiserum detected both 78- and 80-kDa enzyme forms by immunoblotting and immunoprecipitated a [35S]methionine-labeled 78/80-kDa doublet from mammalian cells. One-dimensional peptide maps of these 78- and 80-kDa proteins were similar to those derived from the 78- and 80-kDa forms of purified protein kinase C, respectively. The two forms were not related by either partial proteolysis or differential phosphorylation, showing that two distinct forms of this enzyme exist in mammalian cells. Treatment of mouse B82 L cells with 2.5 micrograms of 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) per ml for 18 h resulted in complete loss of immunoprecipitable protein kinase C with a half time of disappearance of 48 min. Since the normal half-life of protein kinase C was greater than 24 h and the biosynthetic rate of the protein was not decreased after 18 h by TPA treatment, TPA induces down-regulation by increasing the degradation rate of the enzyme. Treatment of cells with 50 ng of TPA per ml followed by resolution of the membrane and cytosol in the presence of ethylene glycol-bis(beta-aminoethyl ether)N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (EGTA) promoted an apparent translocation of both 78- and 80-kDa proteins from the cytosol to the membrane fraction. A similar translocation was effected by cell lysis in the presence of Ca2+, indicating the subcellular localization of protein kinase C to be sensitive to the presence of both activators and micromolar amounts of Ca2+.